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Movie Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice
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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriter: Chris Terrio, David Goyer
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 151 Minutes
Release Date: March 25, 2016

“What have you done?”

You know those combination Pizza Hut/Taco Bell fast food places where you can get a Pepperoni Lover’s® Personal Pan Pizza and a Doritos® Cheesy Gordita Crunch with a Mountain Dew Baja Blast®? Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is kind of like that, except the pizza is a soggy, overloaded sadness pie and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch is deep-fried in sweat and dread. So, your standard Taco Bell experience I guess.

Directed by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel, Watchmen), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is both deadly serious and aggressively silly. It’s a heavy-handed treatise on post-9/11 America written on a Quesalupa wrapper; a soliloquy on sacrificing freedoms for the illusion of security, delivered by a GameStop manager between trade-ins of LEGO Batman 3.

Don’t get me wrong: A movie about the ideological divide between Batman and Superman could be compelling, but that isn’t this movie. There are no heroes in this movie, only violent psychopaths trying to one-up each other in the “right-wing nutjob” department. This isn’t a battle of ideologies; it’s a war for bragging rights. These guys aren’t fighting for justice – they’re gunning for the highest body count.

Following the cataclysmic events of 2013’s Man of Steel, a paranoid schizophrenic (Batman, Ben Affleck) travels to Metropolis to preemptively combat a mopey extraterrestrial (Superman, Henry Cavill), fearing what could happen if the invincible immigrant is left unchecked. It’s almost as if Batman is jealous of Superman’s ability to level entire cities to ash – he still has to kill people with semi-automatic firearms, the way God intended.

Enter LexCorp CEO Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), an eccentric twerp who sees Superman as a threat to humanity and, more importantly, to his own pursuit of power. Eisenberg plays Lex as a twitchy lunatic with daddy issues – a punchable pastiche of Jim Carrey’s Edward Nygma, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Why does Lex hate Superman so much? Because Lex Sr. hit him as a child, which made him stop believing in God. An atheist billionaire hates a space alien because it reminds him of the God he doesn’t believe in since his dad hit him. Got it? Me neither.

Lex hatches a convoluted scheme to frame Superman as a murderer, appealing to the American government to take action against this false god before it’s too late. He cultivates a culture of fear that spreads to Gotham City, where Batman is ready and waiting to kick some Kryptonian ass. Affleck makes for a great Bruce Wayne, but his Batman is nothing more than a hotheaded dope. This isn’t the “World’s Greatest Detective” version of the caped crusader. This Batman is so dark and gritty that the criminals he doesn’t kill, he brands with a bat symbol so the other bad guys will kill them in prison.

After two hours of pseudo-philosophical babble about innocence and power, Batman and Superman finally come to blows. You see, Superman has to kill Batman, or else Lex Luthor’s goons will take out Ma Kent (Diane Lane). And Batman has to kill Superman, or else he’ll never get an erection again (this isn’t actually in the movie, but it’s probably true). Just in case Superman and Batman don’t kill each other, though, Lex has a backup plan: Doomsday.

An unstoppable killing machine synonymous with 1992’s The Death of Superman, Doomsday appears as a generic computer-generated behemoth that looks like a cave troll from The Lord of the Rings with the smooth, shiny crotch of a Ken doll. Doomsday has no intent or motivation – it’s just there so the “heroes” can put aside their nonexistent differences and beat up something even more monstrous than they are.

Cue Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), a 5,000-year-old Amazonian princess who’s been keeping tabs on Lex Luthor and his research on meta-humans. Gadot seems like she’ll be a great fit for the character, but there isn’t much for her to do here. Seeing her jump into action with sword – and her trademark lasso – in hand is the high point of the film, though. If nothing else of value comes from DC’s cinematic universe, Patty Jenkins’s standalone Wonder Woman film will be worth watching.

The finale is as underdeveloped, overwrought, and ineffectual as the rest of the film’s 151-minute runtime. How anyone thought this conclusion would be surprising or remotely satisfying is baffling to me. Then again, I’m not sure anyone involved with this film cares about satisfying an audience or presenting an accurate portrayal of these iconic characters. Snyder and cinematographer Larry Fong create some impressive visuals, but Chris Terrio and David Goyer‘s script isn’t a story so much as a studio-mandated checklist of scenes required to set up future movies.

Overall, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is too dumb to be taken seriously, but too serious to be any fun. There’s a good movie in here somewhere, but it’s buried beneath bad writing, ugly special effects, and crushing nihilism. Like that Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a corporate concoction dreamed up by a conglomerate that took stock of what they owned and decided to combine assets to maximize their profits. Too bad the final product tastes like crap.

Trailer

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6 Comments »

  1. (After having read a very similarly scathing review, I was already kind of set against bothering to see this on the big screen. But a friend called me earlier to say he was going to the midnight premiere at Showcase Bristol, so I thought what the hell, and I’m not really sorry I did, I came away feeling entertained.)

    I mean Adam, come on, super hero movies are generally getting tired now, across the board in my opinion, so why make such a stink about this one? Right back from their original roots none of these characters have ever been particularly complex or deeply interesting.

    Obviously I’m not a big fan of the super hero genre, most of them feel like the McDonalds of comic characters, especially these kinds of heavy hitters. It doesn’t make sense to me why you have such issues with this as compared to any other big budget super hero movie of recent years. The Avengers series for instance, the obvious contender, how is this any better or worse then that series of films? I just don’t agree with this damning attitude towards it. Sure there were a couple of things I didn’t like much, the casting choice for Luthor and the way he was played, that did grate on my nerves a little, and I agree Doomsday was a throw away villain, but then again the comic book version of his story and interaction with Superman is also pretty disposable. Henry could have also shown a little more variety of emotion as Superman, but again, that character always seemed pretty boring to me in the comics too.

    I didn’t find the film confusing as some reviews have said, perhaps the flow of the film was a little odd, certainly slightly more in the style of a montage in places, but does a movie about heroes battling ever need to be any more nuanced or perfectly paced? Not really, it’s certainly not worth getting so worked up about it.

    Yes they were setting things up for the next raft of films, so do all the Marvel films, etc, it’s all been told through the very visual story telling medium of comics already, which makes them all re-makes of sorts.

    I took it to be primarily a Batman film, he opens, he closes, and much of it pivoted on his character really. This to me made the sombre styling completely understandable. The action was epic and chunky as I expected. It’s entertaining. They spent a lot of money on it just like Marvel do, silly money, which in this day and age could certainly be better spent on more pressing issues. But here we are, another blockbuster, so if you like blockbusters, this one’s as good as any in my opinion. Except Guardians of the Galaxy of course ;-)

    Comment by Gordon Emanuel — March 24, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

  2. All superhero films are bad, so like this one?

    Comment by Rick Snee — March 25, 2016 @ 9:36 am

  3. I don’t see anywhere that anyone claimed “all superhero films are bad”. I read that the OP’s opinion was that these kind of movies are becoming a little long in the tooth, maybe not much new to see anymore, but that doesn’t make this film any better or worse than those before it. There are a few reviews of Dawn of Justice on this site and none seem to favor the movie. I, like Gordon, don’t necessarily understand the disdain for these characters, even if they are a bit cookie cutter here. I got what I expected and I was entertained. Bonus that they didn’t outright cripple Wonder Woman. Agreed that there wasn’t much for her to do here but this movie wasn’t really about her anyway so I’m glad she at least participated and wasn’t completely screwed up.

    Comment by PAUL — March 28, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

  4. I inferred bad from:

    “Super hero movies are generally getting tired now, across the board in my opinion, so why make such a stink about this one?”

    “Obviously I’m not a big fan of the super hero genre, most of them feel like the McDonalds of comic characters”

    If that’s saying superhero movies aren’t bad, then that’s very faint praise for the genre.

    Comment by Rick Snee — March 28, 2016 @ 2:25 pm

  5. I still argue that OP didn’t say Dawn of Justice was bad. Or were you originally saying that *you* think all superhero movies are bad, and that this qualifies under that belief? I’d agree that being just another run of the mill superhero film doesn’t make it “good” either but you haven’t really made a definitive personal statement about Dawn of Justice yet (unless I missed it, which is possible).

    Personally, I thought Dawn of Justice was “better than okay” but definitely not bad. There are elements that I did not like, such as Lex Jr personality or Bruce Wayne’s myriad of visions, but at worst, it’s a middle of the road movie here with enough here to establish future DC films. I just don’t think it raised the bar in any meaningful way other than to finally bring DC’s heavy hitters to the big screen for the first time without ruining Wonder Woman (my biggest concern going in).

    Compared to all other superhero movies that I’ve seen recently, Dawn of Justice was enjoyable. A bit muddled and definitely long winded in places but it’s far from dredging bottom and I don’t think it deserves the trashing it’s been getting. I’m not labeling this food “non-toxic” and saying everyone should eat it. It’s more like McDonald’s as OP pointed out and to that, it’ll appeal to many people but choosier eaters won’t like it. And they don’t have to. Nobody should be satisfied with movies that’re merely “as good as the worst entries in its genre” but I, at least, argue that it’s easily better than the worst. As someone with a preference of DC heroes over Marvel though, I’d easily admit that Avengers brought everyone together in a more satisfying way than Dawn of Justice did! Sadly, with so many decent superhero movies, it’s hard to stand out and I think Dawn of Justice proves it. But bad? Not at all.

    Comment by PAUL — March 30, 2016 @ 1:25 pm

  6. I don’t know if it’s bad or not. I haven’t seen it, yet. I’m not arguing if it is good or bad. I just think it’s funny that everyone thinks this review isn’t fair because Adam didn’t couch it in, “It’s OK if you have no discerning taste and just want to see the big men in tight clothes hit each other.”

    But, it’s extremely weak tea to say, “This movie isn’t bad,” but then be unable to say it’s good, either.

    Take a stand. We’re at civil war (whether we’re talking about the Justice League or the Avengers).

    Comment by Rick Snee — March 30, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

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